TOP 15 important things you should know before visiting Thailand
Thailand is one popular tourist destination. And no wonder why! Naturally diverse country with mouth-watering cuisine, and always-smiling people… Who wouldn`t like to be in a country like this?! Thailand has a lot to offer and that is why so many call it as a country in their bucket list. Lose yourself in the colorful markets, soak in those turquoise blue waters of Thailand`s spectacular coasts, explore islands, climb the mountains and go to see the ladyboy show! So many foreigners already call Thailand their home, and when returning to Thailand we always think that this would be a great option as for us, as for everyone, too!
Many countries do not need a visa to enter Thailand and stay for a duration of 30 days. Some are required to apply for a 15-day visa at immigration checkpoints on arrival or make a visa in the embassy of Thailand in another country to get a 30-day stay. When in Thailand, you can prolong your stay for another 30 days by paying around 2,000 baht. And remember that Thai are very serious about overstaying your visa, so better don`t. In that case you will be asked to pay 500 Thai baht fine for every extra day! It is better to think about this in advance, and if you are planning to travel here longer apply for a 60-day visa before coming to Thailand.
2. The land
Thailand has a huge variety of flora and fauna. And nature here is just spectacular! You will be able to find more than 100 national parks and gardens. There are plenty of activities for nature lovers like hiking, climbing, caving, bird-watching, diving, and so much more! Here you will find stunning beaches and picturesque (as well as quite famous) islands in the South, stunning waterfalls all across the country. There are plenty of hiking trails around the mountains and jungle treks. This country is very beautiful and therefore very well-known in the world. Do not miss it!
Thailand is a nice land of always-warm weather. Well, we can say that`s even a bit hot. Summer months from March to June are the hottest ones when temperatures go above plus 40 Celsius! Yeah, and it is also very humid at that time. The rainy season that usually starts from June and goes through October (in South East it`s November to March) has lots of rain. But it is still hot. And every season has its advantages, e.g. rainy season makes National parks and waterfalls just incredible! The best time to visit Bangkok and North of the country would probably be the cool season from November to February. Moreover, December is the festive season! Of course, it will be more crowded then, so book your hotel way in advance! And prices go up then as well.
Thai people have always seen as welcoming and smiling people. Yes, they truly are. Of course, in more remote areas you will find so much friendlier locals whereas in more touristy areas like Phuket some foreigners are even claiming that locals start to hate Westerners. We have to mention that there are always reasons for that.
But generally, in Thailand, there are various people groups some of which you will find truly fascinating, like long neck tribe known for wearing the neck rings to lengthen it. Besides Thais there are 7 huge tribes living in the hills of Thailand and each of them has their unique culture and customs. The Thai population consists also of Chinese, Khmer, Lao, and Indians.
Locals are usually very relaxed. They do not worry or stress about things too much. They`re friendly, and sometimes even curious about a foreigner in their area. But therefore again remember that people are not so well-organized. They do not stand in lines, they do not really respect the personal space, and they can ask you many questions about anything.
Interestingly enough, even if usually it is not appropriate to show affection in public – even hugging and hand-holding might be seen as “too much” – they still are very tolerant of homosexual relationships, and even transsexuals or “ladyboys” are accepted!
But then again, most of the population are Buddhists and they follow certain rules that we will discuss in the following point.
The main religion in Thailand is Buddhism, which is practiced by 95% of the population. The King himself is required to be Theravada Buddhist even if the country generally gives religious freedom to people. The second most common religion is Islam, but also Hinduism and Taoism are practiced.
So in this land you will see lots of temples and Buddha statues. And those are truly magical. But remember to dress properly when entering the temple – you won`t be allowed to enter with shoulders and knees uncovered! Be very respectful to Buddha statues – you cannot take a selfie with Buddha or pretend to kiss the statue as you might get arrested for that!
And, yes, there are several rules related to Thai Buddhism. Firstly, monks are deeply respected and they have always given the first hand. And monks, as well as all the Buddhists, have to follow five steps of not killing any living creature, not stealing, not committing sexual offences, not lieing or gossiping, and not intoxicating. And there are also several rules in the temples and outside them like not showing your feet to Buddha statues and not using Buddha`s head as a decoration or tattoo it on your body!
6. Language and culture
The official language in Thailand is Thai. And this language doesn`t consist of the Latin letters, so you might get lost in those symbols all around. Though as Thailand is a touristy country you will find many speaking English and menus will be translated. Of course, in the market it is a bit different and locals will try to trick you. So what you can do – learn or write down the numbers in Thai – this way you will at least understand the real prices!
Generally, Thai people are very nice if just you`re a respectful traveler. Of course, they will be way more friendly if you`ll be in a place where not so many disrespectful tourists have been, but overall you should find Thai people welcoming!
The King and the Royal family are a part of the culture. Especially previous King, who was the longest-reigning King in the world, is still very beloved among Thai, so never say anything bad about him! Also, the anthem is very much respected. You`ll see people standing whenever it`s playing, and you should do the same. After the previous King died the anthem was played several times per day, even on the train! And it was so awkward when everyone still rose up standing in the riding train!
Some things like showing affection or anger in public are considered rude. Thais also consider that the head is the highest part of the body so it is not appropriate to touch anyone on the head.
For Thai people, family is very important and you`ll see them sticking together. And youngsters are expected to help elders who are very much respected. Status is important in Thai culture and everyone, depending on the social status, is treated a bit differently. Also, besides Buddhism, people believe spirits and are quite superstitious.
There are plenty of stray dogs, and this is where you can help! These dogs can be sick, and it is always best not to touch them or pet them, but this doesn`t forbid you to buy some dog food and leave the dog this on the street! Even locals have praised us saying “Good job, nobody feeds them”. And when you`ll see an animal literally swallowing everything at once because it has been so hungry, you`ll know that you can make a difference! Yeah, maybe it is not comfy to walk with the dog and cat food in your backpack all around, but that is just a small effort for someone to have their meal maybe after a week of hunger! Small effort from each of us would make a huge, huge impact!
There are many animals in Thailand, and most of them are actually monkeys! But be very careful with them! If monkey will see you carrying something, it will try to snatch it. If you`re not careful, you might get scratched (that can cause bad illnesses) and an animal could get some plastic or super-inappropriate drink because of your irresponsibility!
Yes, Thailand is home to more than one-tenth of all the animals on the Planet. And yes, there are many exotic animals like leopards, tigers, sun bears, gibbons and so many more! But be very mindful when trying to see them. The best is to avoid animal tourism – there are plenty of other things to do in Thailand. Let`s continue with that below!
There`s so much to do and see in Thailand that you can return here and discover something new every time! But here we will talk about most popular things tourists go for when arriving in Thailand!
Yeah, Thailand has nightlife, and a great one. There is a great night scene in Bangkok, there are beach parties, and there are so many bright festivals and celebrations you wouldn`t like to miss! Therefore, before arriving in Thailand, check their national celebration dates – you might get lucky to experience something spectacular!
Do not miss the Ladyboy shows, Pingpong shows and Muay Thai (which is Thai boxing)!
Of course, there are outdoor activities like hiking, rock climbing, zip-lining, canopy, caving and so many more!
Thailand is perfect to enjoy markets, especially night markets where you will be able to find such a variety of things that you`ll decide to return to Thailand with you traveling bags empty to fill them in! There are also floating markets that give just incredible experience!
In Thailand, you also shouldn`t miss those spectacular temples! Each and every one of them is just so incredibly beautiful!
And do not miss Thai massage! You can get one-hour-long massage for less than 10 euros!!!
Of course, remember that locals will try to trick you. What is the most common way – they`ll say that something that you`re going to is closed and quickly will put you in the tuk-tuk and bring you to an expensive tour company. Yeah, we fell for that, too! But we were smarter the next time – when a random guy started to tell us that the market is closed and offered us a boat tour instead (saying he`s a teacher and not interested to trick us), we continued our way and discovered that all that were lies – the market was open and busy!
We`ll finish this part with animal tourism. Be responsible traveler and do not support it! There is so much information on how the volunteers in elephant farms experienced cruelty towards animals. Elephants are caught and caged just so that you would be able to swim with them or ride them! If you look closely, elephants are not happy but desperate to be in a pond with 30 people insistently trying to wash them! These animals do not have a “resting day” just because tourists are flocking in the elephant farms over and over again, every single day! Do not support those articles saying “swim with the elephants in Thailand, that is fun!” – yeah, maybe for you, but not for the elephant! Do avoid animal tourism – animals are drugged just for you to be able to take photos with them! They are taken from their natural inhabitant just because of the tourist!
There are many ways to move around the country and within the cities. You have probably heard about the tuk-tuks which are very popular way to move from one corner of the place to another. And those tricycles are so colorful that are hard to miss! Of course, these guys will try to trick you as a foreigner, so if you do not have a local with you, get ready to pay good amount of money. Though it is always good for one-time experience.
It is definitely cheaper to use Grab as prices are fixed. If taxis are not trustable just because they will also try to trick you then Grab is the safest bet.
By the way, metro is super-fast, easy and cheap!
You can rent a motorbike and it is usually around 5 euros a day. Of course, always inspect the motorbike you`re renting otherwise they might end up claiming you have broken it. And be very careful when driving through the traffic – people tend to drive on the opposite lane as well! Always be alert!
Train is cool and cheap option to travel around Thailand. Even three-hour-long journey costed us just a couple of cents! If it is a longer ride you can choose the class to travel in from sitting compartments to air-conditioned sleeper ones.
And then there`s a bus. Buses reach places that train would not cover. If you start your bus tour from Bangkok, remember that there are 3 main bus stations – Central Station Mo Chit, Eastern Station Ekamai, and Southern Station Sai Tai. Depending on which direction you`re planning to go, choose the station accordingly. Buses with air-con divide in VIP, first-class buses and second class buses. There are also cheaper ones that stop at every stop on the way. So – depending on what you are looking for – there will be an option for that, too!
Yeah, there are boats and ferries to travel to islands, and usually, they are not too pricey. But sometimes they can be overloaded and in poor condition, so wear a life jacket!
There are more than 20 domestic airports, so air travel is also an option! The cheapest airlines are Nok Air, Air Asia, and One-to-Go.
Thailand is generally safe country to travel to. Of course, there are some things you should keep in mind. There are mosquitos, and they carry Dengue, especially in the wet season. Mosquito repellent will get handy. There is also Zika virus transmission.
The rainy season differs in various parts of Thailand, but overall it is from May to October while in South East it is from November to March. This is the time when flooding can occur, there can be landslides and blocked roads. During the rainy season also jellyfish can swim close to shore, and their stings can be deadly. North of the country is subject to earthquakes as well.
Even if the food is super-safe here, you should avoid ice as sometimes it is carried in big dirty bags and used afterwards. And remember to drink plenty in this hot and humid country! Though be careful of drink-spiking that can happen. Always be respectful traveler – respect local culture and laws. There are many foreigners that get imprisoned, usually for being drunk and misbehaving. Remember that conviction for using and distributing drugs can lead to death penalty! Also, criticism of the monarchy is a crime and that can lead to jail sentence as well! You can get fines for posting inappropriate photos, too.
The biggest cities have poor air quality, so children, elderly and those with breathing difficulties should consider the destination wisely – maybe this time go for a smaller place with lots of natural surroundings! Also, airports can get closed (especially in the North) due to poor air quality that affects visibility.
And be careful on the road! Traffic accidents are very common in this country! Be very cautious if renting a vehicle and driving yourself!
11. ATMs and cash
The official currency in Thailand is Baht. The notes are in different colors and with the King`s image on them. Therefore keep in mind that you should never step on the note or coin if it is fallen on the ground because locals consider that as a rude gesture to step on their King`s image.
ATMs are found on every corner in the biggest cities, and they usually work very well. Of course, in small rural areas, you might get stuck with it, so whenever you have an opportunity to take out cash before traveling in less inhabited places, do it! Moreover, you will need cash most of the time as markets, most of local eateries and tuk-tuk drivers will accept cash only.
The interesting thing here is VAT refund. In Thailand, you`ll pay Value Added Tax on many products and services that are added to the price, and if you’re visiting Thailand for less than 180 days in a calendar year and leaving Thailand by plane – you can claim the VAT refund!
12. SIM and internet
Internet is easily found in most of the touristy places. Hotels have free wi-fi, and it is usually very good. But, of course, SIM is always useful – even just to book a Grab ride. AIS is considered to be the best SIM for internet. Also, Dtac and TrueMove are named to be good ones. 8GB would cost you around 15 euros. You can purchase SIM almost anywhere – in convenience stores, supermarkets and even in drug stores!
13. Food and drinks
You most likely have already heard about Thai food. Yeah, it is exactly that good! You will find food stalls all over! Basically, you won`t need to look for food in Thailand, as it is everywhere! The cool thing is that it is also super-safe, and street food doesn`t mean you will get sick, and you won`t! Just remember that they like to make things spicy! The most traditional Thai dishes include: Tom Yum (soup), Tom Sam (spicy green papaya salad), Pad Thai (Thai style fried noodles), Khao Pad (fried rice), Thai curry and so many more! Basically, try a new dish every day and there still would be plenty new for the next time!
If you go for a dinner with friends or family, remember that food usually hasn`t been prepared and served at once, so one of you will be already finished when the last one will get the dish.
Tipping is common, maybe just not among the street vendors. But everyone will always be thankful for some extra cash.
What about drinks? First of all, do not drink tap water. Buy bottled water, and after you can fill in your empty bottles in one of the street drinking-water machines where 1.5 litres cost only around 1 baht!
Thais have their own beer brands, too. Undoubtedly, Leo is the best beer – we totally agree with the local`s choice! And it is not much more expensive than the popular Chang beer. If you opt for the cheapest version, it is Archa and it is still drinkable. Though remember that alcohol is not sold all-day-long. At least in the official convenience stores not. You can buy alcohol between 11:00 – 14:00 and from 17:00 till midnight, and you won`t get booze on celebration days, so stock up! But, yeah, don`t get sad if you read this too late. There will always be someone who sells alcohol “under the table”!
Oh, you can really enjoy shopping in Thailand! Shopping malls, markets, handicrafts, and luxury merchandise. Seems that it is possible to find everything in Thailand! You can bring home spices, clothes and scarves, wooden or metal crafts, pearls, silk, spa products, antiques and so much more! But be a caring shopper. Do not bargain too low as locals find it offensive! Which is that thin line? Well, it is hard to tell – you will always see on the face of the seller if he can get that price lower or not. But one almost always will be successful when bargaining the prices, especially if more than one product is bought from the same seller.
And also, it is useful to go to the big shopping centres towards the afternoon because they give super-huge discounts to get rid of the fresh produce and products with the expiry date of that same day. Every day we bought a pineapple for 3 baht, a pack of cherry tomatoes for 4 baht, yogurt for the same amount, etc. This is how you can save incredibly much!
In Thailand, you will be able to find everything – from budget hostels to fancy and exclusive hotel rooms. Of course, in more remote areas it is sometimes best to go around and ask for the place instead to book it online as you can then negotiate the price. Here the fan rooms will always be cheaper than the air-con rooms. Also, toilets are a bit different – they use sprinkler instead of toilet paper, so you might want to take your own paper with you.
If you stay in Thailand for a longer period of time, you might even look into apartments! Also, hotels are offering monthly rates, but sometimes it is possible to find nice flats for the same price. Though be careful as water and electricity then has to be paid additionally depending on how much you spend. When we talked with several landlords they said that monthly electricity bill for a couple starts from 5,000 baht, but every place can be different.
Thailand is a perfect country in Asia to meet the different culture, cuisine, and traditions. And we hope that these small tips will make your first journey to this land even more enjoyable!